Meet the needs of students with disabilities in grades pre-K through 12.

Children and teens with learning disorders, developmental delays and other disabilities have special educational needs. PennWest California’s B.S.Ed. in Special Education program provides you with the skills, knowledge and competencies to help these students maximize their potential.

This four-year, on-campus bachelor’s degree program prepares you to work in a variety of settings with children from pre-kindergarten to grade 12.

Utilizing research-based instructional strategies and diagnostic tools, you will develop a thorough understanding of child and adolescent development and appropriate methods for teaching learners with special needs at the preschool, elementary, middle school and high school levels.

Practical experience

As a future teacher, you’ll gain real-world experience in special education classrooms. PennWest California students in the special education degree program complete three field experience courses, in addition to a 15-week student teaching experience.

The special education program also has a technology lab where you can explore instructional technology and practice teaching with it, so you can use these tools effectively during your field experiences and student teaching.

Program Highlights: Special Education Pre-K - 12

ASD Endorsement: As part of PennWest California’s special education program, you’ll complete coursework enabling you to earn the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Endorsement in Autism Spectrum Disorders, in addition to teaching certification in special education. The ASD endorsement recognizes your “demonstrated competencies related to research-based assessment, intervention, instruction and program management for students with ASD,” according to the Education Department.

Top accreditation: PennWest California's education programs have been accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1954, and we are continuing with the successor organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). 

Personal Attention: PennWest California students work closely with top education professors who have experience as special education teachers and can relate theory to real-life experiences. Our faculty members are available and approachable. They are ready to answer your questions, provide personal assistance, and give you the resources you need for career success.

Number of hours spent in a special education classroom during each field experience.
Average salary for special education teachers in Pennsylvania, according to the Department of Labor Statistics.
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Degree Benefits

PennWest California students in the special education program demonstrate knowledge and competencies in academic, behavioral, social and emotional growth, as well as instructional strategies that help children and teens with disabilities reach their full potential. Additional benefits include:

  • Hands-on fieldwork and student teaching opportunities in local Pennsylvania schools.
  • Job placement support from faculty, alumni and PennWest California's Career and Professional Development Center.
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Graduate Outcomes

Graduates who earn teacher certification in special education are well positioned to seek immediate employment.

Special education teachers are in high demand now, and special education jobs in Pennsylvania are projected to grow by 7% over the next 10 years, according to Projections Central.

In contrast to similar programs at other universities, PennWest California’s special education pre-K – 12 program includes coursework required to earn the state Department of Education’s Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement, a valued credential that gives special education graduates a competitive edge.


Special Education Grades PreK-12 
PennWest California student teacher educating students in a classroom.

What is special education?

Special education helps students with learning disabilities, developmental delays and other disabilities maximize their capabilities. Special education teachers make a positive impact on the lives of their students; they understand how children develop and have the knowledge and skills to adapt learning activities to each child’s individual needs. In Pennsylvania, students enrolled in public schools who have special needs – including gifted students – are eligible for special education services.

PennWest California student teacher at a table with young students.

Service and leadership

The special education program at PennWest California includes opportunities for service, leadership and recognition outside the classroom. Through the Council for Exceptional Children, PennWest California students may attend conferences, organize dances for community residents with disabilities or volunteer at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Students with high academic achievement and service to the University may be invited to join Sigma PI Epsilon Delta, the Special Education Honorary.

Special Education Bachelor’s Degree Courses

This 121-credit bachelor's degree program emphasizes experiential learning, in-depth courses and field experiences in special education settings. Upon successful completion of this program, you will earn a bachelor's degree and become eligible for Pennsylvania teaching certification and the PDE-approved Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement.


Course Credits
General Education Courses 40 or 41
Building a Sense of Community
UNI 100  First-Year Seminar
ENG 101  English Composition I
Public Speaking
EDU 350  Supporting English Language Learners
Mathematics and Quantitative Literacy
Any 100-level Mathematics and Quantitative Literacy Course
Health and Wellness
Any Health and Wellness Course (Recommended: HSC 315, SOW 303)
Technological Literacy
EDU 333  Technology for Teaching and Learning
Any Humanities Course (Recommended: CMD 350, PHI 220)
Fine Arts
Any Fine Arts Course
Natural Sciences
Any Natural Sciences Course with Lab
3 or 4
Social Sciences
Any Social Sciences Course (Recommended: CMD 108, SOC 315, SOC 325)
General Education Options
  • Ethics and Multicultural Awareness Course (Recommended: PHI 220, SOC 325)
  • Any 100-level Math Course
  • British/American Lit Course (from approved list)
  • General Education Course
Required Major Courses 66
ESP 100  Disability / Popular Media 3
ESP 210  Special Education Foundations and Collaboration 3
ESP 311  Assessment and PBS 3
ESP 312  ABA for Special Education 3
ESP 329  Intro to Special Education Field 3
ESP 339  Special Education Field II 3
ESP 349  Special Education Field III* 3
ESP 402  Life Skills Planning and Instruction* 3
ESP 403  Assessment and Prescriptive Teaching 3
ESP 406  Transition Planning and Instruction 3
ESP 407  Early Intervention Special Education 3
ESP 411  History, Theory and Exceptionality 3
ESP 419  Evidence Based Practices for Special Education 3
ESP 420  Advanced Evidence-Based Practices* 3
ESP 440  Nature of ASD*  3
ESP 441  Comm., Beh. and Instr. - ASD* 3
ESP 442  Life Transition and Partnership* 3
ESP 443  Navigating the Social World* 3
ESP 461  Student Teaching 12
Required Related Courses 12
CMD 105  Language and Speech Development 3
PSY 205  Childhood: Developmental Psychology 3
PSY 206  Adolescent: Developmental Psychology 3
PSY 208  Educational Psychology 3
Free Electives 2
Total 120

Additional requirements, not counted toward the General Education requirements, include:

  • Special Experience Course (1 course required): ESP 461 Student Teaching and School Law
  • Writing-Intensive Component Courses (2 courses required): ESP 339 Special Education Field Experience I AND ESP 349 Special Education Field Experience II
  • Laboratory Course (1 course required): Any Laboratory Course

* Pre-requisite for courses marked with an asterisk is Admission to Teacher Education.

Program Notes:

  • All courses required for certification with C- or lower must be repeated.
  • All ESP courses require current clearances and minimum 2.5 GPA to register for courses.
  • Candidates must follow policies for Admission to Teacher Education as stated in the Teacher Education Handbook.
  • State licensure exams must be passed before student teaching.
  • Approved American/British Literature Courses are: ENG 107, 125, 127, 148, 150, 155, 160, 203, 301, 302, 337, 338; HON 150,  250. (HON 250 has a pre-requisite of HON 150; the 300-level ENG courses have pre-requisites of ENG 101 and 102.)

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